NEW HAVEN, Conn. – In his final season as a member of the Yale University men’s lacrosse team James Tjarksen (Hartland, Wisc.), has ensured that his final season as a member of the Yale University men’s lacrosse team will be a memorable one. The son of two former Yale athletes has all ready set career-highs in numerous statistical categories. More importantly to the senior midfielder, he has helped the Bulldogs to a winning record and a top 10 national ranking.
Despite growing up in America’s Dairyland, Yale was always going to be a college choice for Tjarksen (pronounced Jark-sen).
Michael and Connie Tjarksen, both ’86, were varsity athletes during their time on campus. Connie played lacrosse while Mike was a defensive back for the Bulldogs. Mike intercepted 10 passes in his football career, the third most in school history at the time he graduated.
“My parents definitely had an impact on me deciding to go to Yale just from me looking up to them,” said Tjarksen. “Hearing about and visiting several times as a kid definitely made going to Yale something I thought about when I was younger. That being said, my parents in no way pushed me to go to Yale at all and insisted on me looking at a lot of other schools. I mainly looked at other Ivy League schools but ultimately decided Yale was the place for me. ”
In the fall of 2011, James attempted to walk-on to the Yale men’s lacrosse team. Through his hard work and determination the 2-time All-State player at Marquette High School made the perennially-strong Bulldogs’ squad.
” ‘Shark’ is a kid who came to our camps, wanted to be a Yale lacrosse player, got into Yale on his own, and followed his dream,” said Head Coach Andy Shay. “He tied our 40 yard dash record at 4.38 on his first day of tryouts. We knew it would be tough to cut him after that.”
The Elis have experienced much on-field success during Tjarksen’s collegiate career, winning the 2012 and 2013 Ivy League Tournament and earning NCAA Tournament berths. As an individual though, the midfielder was not playing, getting a combined six appearances over his first three seasons.
Through it all the 5′-7″, 160 pounder continued to stay positive and work on constantly improving.
“I’ve tried to keep on focusing on getting better and working hard while trying to help our team in any way I could,” said Tjarksen. “Coach has always stressed the importance of every player on our team to our success. I really just focused on doing anything I could to make our team better even if I wasn’t playing on Saturdays.”
“Few, if any, players in my coaching career have worked harder at their craft than ‘Shark’,” adds Shay. “He has put in more hours than just practice. He is an entirely self-made player. He tore his hamstring last year, and came in to watch film, every single week, of his teammates playing ahead of him.”
His desire and dedication have been rewarded this season. First, Tjarksen earned the honor of wearing the No. 27 jersey at the Christian Prince ’93 Memorial Tournament in the fall. The retired No. 27 jersey is wore by the player who worked the hardest (exemplifying Christian’s play) during fall practices.
“I’ve always prided myself on being a hard worker and giving full effort every day,” said Tjarksen. “Hopefully I have impacted some of the younger guys on the importance of giving it your all and doing anything you can to help the team and eventually your time to play will come.”
This spring Tjarksen has solidified the Bulldogs’ defense in the midfield, shadowing opposing attackmen and scooping ground balls in every game thus far. The senior also scored his first collegiate goal in the season-opening victory vs. UMass-Lowell on Feb. 14.
“We’ve really just focused on getting better every day so far,” said Tjarksen. “We know that if we just focus on the process and the little details then the games will take care of themselves. We’re just taking everything one day at a time.”
His on-field efforts this spring have not gone unnoticed by the coaching staff. In the Elis’ first victory over then No. 7 Maryland since 1925 on Feb. 21, Shay cited Tjarksen as “the best player on the field” versus the Terps.
After graduating in May, the Economics major plans to work at R.W. Baird as an investment banking analyst in Chicago.
The Bulldogs (5-2, 0-2 Ivy) visit Penn on Saturday. The Ivy League contest, set to begin at 5:30 p.m., will be televised on Fox Sports 1.